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The Battle of Waterloo: A Comparative Exercise, Part 3

In the finale of our Waterloo comparisons, our resident Napoleonicist continues his side-by-side comparisons with the groggiest of the grog games ~

Jim Owczarski, 23 July 2016

The 201st anniversary of the Great Battle has passed, Spring has turned to the heat of Summer, and, for those who have come this far, it’s time to explore the rarefied air breathed by the more complex simulations of the Battle of Waterloo.  (ed note, links to read part 1 and part 2)

I begin with a game to which I react much like that famous speech from the end of so many relationships, viz.: “it’s not you, it’s me.”  Martin Wallace is one of the great Euro-game designers of our time and there’s much conceptually to admire in his “Waterloo”, but, despite my best efforts, I’ve never been able to bring myself to love it the way some do.

You can keep your Mona Lisa.

You can keep your Mona Lisa.

The Battle of Waterloo: A Comparative Exercise, Part 2

Our resident Napoleonicist continues to compare all things Waterloo side-by-side, and ratcheting up the difficulty level on the games ~

Jim Owczarski, 21 May 2016

The nice part about doing a series is one can leave aside the preliminary pleasantries and leap to the business at hand.  For those who missed the first journey into the world of wargaming Waterloo (I may need to trademark alliteration that strong), it’s here.

For those already up to speed, what follows is a discussion of some of the medium-weight games to take up this greatest of battles.

It may surprise some that I do not find Richard Borg’s Command and Colors: Napoleonics to be a light wargame.  It is, after all, the direct descendant of Memoir ’44, likely the greatest gateway wargame ever made.  It borrows its predecessor’s left-center-right battlefield construction; units, though blocks and not little plastic man, are still formed of a few markers each; a hand of cards drawn from a common deck that shares many similarities with Memoir drives the action; and combat is resolved with dice that have symbols rather than pips.

They were on sale.  How could I say no?

They were on sale.  How could I say no?

The Battle of Waterloo: A Comparative Exercise

What happens when our resident Napoleonicist compares all things Waterloo side-by-side(-by-side-by-side-by-side)? ~

Jim Owczarski, 23 April 2016

With respect to E.S. Creasy, lists of “greatest” or “most significant” battles are best left as the stuff of coffee shop debate or oversized, remaindered tomes available at your local discount book store.  There’s just too much that goes into defining sprawling words like “greatest” that prevents the conversation from being useful much less dispositive.

That said, Waterloo is the greatest battle ever.  Ever.  I will not subject this to further debate.

Let us instead, at the request of the editorial staff hereabouts, visit some of the many consims to take up the battle, and, along the way, talk about how approaches to the battle have changed over the years.  This is not a complete list and it is a subjective one, but I hope it gives you a small window into the world of Waterloo gaming — a place where I have spent an awful lot of time.  Lest the tyro turn away at first glance, let the story begin with the simpler games that offer to take the player back to mid-June 1815.

I must here confess that I don’t think over-much of the Avalon Hill classic “Waterloo”.  It’s not that both the board and the counters are, putting the matter generously, merely serviceable.

Yep, 1962.

Yep, 1962.

GrogHeads Interviews Dr Ezra Sidran

The master of artificial intelligence returns to hobby gaming after a sojourn into the professional gaming world ~

Jim Owczarski, 09 April 2016

I write about wargames because I love them and want to share them with others.  One of the added benefits is being able to meet some of the people who made the games that stole away entire years of my life as I imagined myself Alexander, Grant, or, most frequently, Berthier.  I’m very pleased to have now added Dr. D. Ezra Sidran, designer of the seminal Universal Military Simulator and Universal Military Simulator II.

He’s recently returned to commercial wargame production after a while away — some of the reasons for which he goes into in this interview — to begin work on a new game based on the classic Kriegsspiel.  Titled General Staff, it promises to take a typically Sidranian (neologism for “awfully damned different”) look at digital wargaming along with a level of A.I. that I myself had once described as chimerical.

He was kind enough to answer my questions, even those which were likely of interest only to myself, and along the way talk about his games old and new, digital wargames in the neolithic era (the 1980s), and what he’s been up to since companies like Firebird, Rainbird, and even Microprose closed their doors.

GrogHeads Reviews ONUS!

Ancients battling across your tabletop, with minimal prep! ~

Jim Owczarski, 12 March 2016

There are two types of miniatures wargamers. The first is into the assembling, painting, and basing of miniatures for the mad fun of it all.  Actually subjecting their lead, or more recently, plastic, hordes to mere rules in a game can seem secondary; just about everyone who has ever “played” Warhammer 40k leaps to mind.

The other is the sort that loves the aesthetic of so many little men, but, even if he finds the process enjoyable enough, knows that he’ll likely never have the time, space, and resources to play in one of those really big games that show up in rulebooks and convention floors.

Enter Onus! (I will hereafter forgo the exclamation point) by Spanish publisher Draco Ideas.  Originally published in 2014 in a Spanish-language edition, Onus recently emerged from a successful Kickstarter that will, among other things, produce an English-language edition.  What follows is a review of the original version.

The concept behind Onus is simple enough. Most wargames involving miniatures require players to stick their figures onto squares or rectangles to facilitate movement.  Onus skips the bit about miniatures and gives us the bases, made of playing card stock decorated with pictures of the soldiers and bids us have at.  This allows the game to come in a very small package.

Mighty armies, itty-bitty living space

Mighty armies, itty-bitty living space

TANKSgiving! GrogHeads Reviews DVG’s Modern Land Battles


TANKSgiving kicks off with a bang!

Jim Owczarski, 21 November 2015

Click images to enlarge

Dan Verssen’s Modern Naval Battles has rolled past its 25th birthday and is making its way to its 30th.  I’ll pause for a moment and let that sink in with those who were already adults when it was released.  Bitter reminders of our mortality aside, the game has been and remains a popular choice for grogs interested in playing a game that feels crunchy and lets them indulge their love of technology while not requiring days or weeks to play.

Enter, then, Modern Land Battles: Target Acquired, a 2-6 player non-collectible card game that tries, in its own abstract and simplified way, to simulate mechanized land warfare in the period following the Second World War.  I’ve already done a piece un-boxing the game (Modern Land Battles – First Look!) so what follows is a review of the game’s mechanics, level of simulation, and overall flow.

As indicated in the earlier article, MLB allows two players or teams of players to select from seven national force pools:  United States, Arab Multinational, China, Great Britain, Insurgent, Israel, and U.S.S.R.  And while I did discuss some of the vehicles before, it would hardly be TANKSgiving if I didn’t offer a few more shots of lovely, lovely AFVs.

I keep wanting to shout "Wolverines!!"

I keep wanting to shout “Wolverines!!”

All Things Zombie Reloaded – A Halloween AAR

An adventurous romp through the zombie apocalypse for your Halloween Weekend.

Jim Owczarski, 31 October 2015


My family, on my mother’s side anyway, comes from the farming town of Abrams, Wisconsin; 2000 population 1,757 if Wikipedia is to be believed.  Growing up, I’d often be taken back to the ancestral homestead to sit in my great-grandmother’s kitchen and hear the elders talk about the ciezkie czasy.  These “hard times”, for that is the meaning of the Polish phrase, were something scrubby preteens would be threatened with if the odd vegetable went uneaten or we otherwise expressed ingratitude for our material circumstances.  I don’t know as I was ever certain what would cause these times, other than my own ingratitude, or how they might end.  I was certain, however, that I wanted to hide from them up there in Abrams.  Not too many people about, but those who were tended to be good with things necessary in the direst of circumstances and might even be honest and trustworthy enough to help you resist whatever might be causing the hard times.

I think I can say without fear of correction that a zombie apocalypse would count as ciezkie czasy.  With all this in mind, please join me as I, my wife, and my son journey to Abrams and confront the slavering horde of the undead as imagined by Lock ‘n Load Publishing’s “All Things Zombie: Reloaded” (ATZ).

The first thing to do was choose characters.  Having tried a number of other characters in previous games, I decided to have a go with Sailor.  He shows up as strong and particularly good in a hand-to-hand scrap.

Helllllloooo...never mind...

Helllllloooo…never mind…

Modern Land Battles – First Look!

Jim Owczarski, 16 September 2015

It is sobering to note that the original “Modern Naval Battles” card game dates back to 1989.  It and its offspring have remained one of the more successful titles in the canon of Dan Verssen.  I must confess myself, however, to be not the greatest fan of modern naval battles so I’ve somehow managed to give it a miss all these years.  Now, however, comes this box in the mail and matters are different:


It’s not the “Field Commander” or “Tiger Leader” monster box and it’s all together lighter than either.  Inside is a rule book, a sheet of counters, a wee bag of four 10-sided dice, and a lot of nicely-done cards.